Norway tops in treating lymphoma

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Norwegian doctors and hospitals have managed to dramatically improve the survival rate of patients diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer that affects the immune system. Only one out of 10 lymphoma patients in Norway now dies within five years of diagnosis, reports newspaper Aftenposten, compared to seven out of 10 in 1990.

Oslo's Radiumhospitalet has a new research center and tops world statistics now in lymphoma survival rates. PHOTO Radiumhospitalet

Oslo’s Radiumhospitalet has a new research center and tops world statistics now in lymphoma survival rates. PHOTO Radiumhospitalet

Dr Tom Børge Johanessen at the Norwegian Cancer Register (Kreftregisteret) confirmed that the numbers place Norway and the other Nordic countries at the top of world statistics charting lymphoma survival rates.

“We’re at the forefront of research on treatments for this type of cancer, and we’re constantly taking part in clinical studies,” Dr Harald Holte of Oslo’s Radiumhospitalet told Aftenposten on Tuesday. “We’ve also become much better at tailoring treatment to the various types of lymphoma.”

More precise diagnostic work is another reason so many Norwegians now survive lymphoma. Holte said that with better treatments, fewer patients die from complications and treatment is often offered in cooperation with patients’ local hospital in Norway, where competence levels also have been raised.

“New approaches to treatment, a combination of chemotherapies and how they’re given, especially in cases of very aggressive lymphoma, along with high dosage with stem cell support also improves results,” Holte told Aftenposten.

Survivor’s story
The newspaper cited the case of Martin Nes, who was age 39 with two children and a pregnant diplomat wife when he began to feel unwell in 2009, with night sweats, fatigue and shortness of breath. Doctors initially thought he had pneumonia, but then he also suffered a colon infection and after becoming acutely ill with great pain, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and sent in an ambulance to Radiumhospitalet, Norway’s national cancer hospital.

“‘You’re going to go through a tough (treatment) time but you’re going to get well,'” Nes recalls Holte telling him. “It was fantastic to arrive at Radiumhospitalet. Harald Holte greeted me with optimism. I had to go through tough chemotherapy but it was necessary, because the cancer cells were doubling every day, and they spread to the bone marrow.”

Today Nes has long been back at work as chief executive of investment firm Ferncliff. “Some can still have symptoms like fatigue, concentration problems or side effects of radiation,” Holte said, but added that most who survive lymphoma lead normal lives. He’s proud that Norway has become one of the countries in the world that has come farthest with treatment and survival rates. So have other Nordic countries.

A month after his first round of treatments, Nes could attend the birth of his third child. “And the last chemotherapy session was on my son’s second birthday,” he told Aftenposten. “That puts life in perspective.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund